|Posted on September 29, 2016 at 10:55 PM|
Back in the Day
It’s been 25 years. The bereavement landscape was very different back then. The death, dying and grief section in my hometown book store housed about a dozen dusty books. Bereavement Magazine read more like a newsletter than a publication. The two-and- a-half-hour round trip to attend a Compassionate Friends meeting was too stressful to endure alone. Making a call to “just to talk” had to be scheduled to take advantage of weekend rates and avoid long distance charges. The idea of actually having “face time” with a caller was still on the drawing board. Imagine, listening to a static ridden message on your voicemail machine because you were too overcome with despair or sheer exhaustion to answer the phone. It was different back in the day.
Many of you cannot imagine a grief world without a Facebook page to memorialize your loved one, a website to create a foundation or a search engine to find grief resources. No profile page, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter account to post your current status about a sweet memory, a dream visit, an angry rant or a cry for help. No instant notification alert from “friends” who like, love or feel sad about your current status. Grievers didn’t have these options back in the day. Since then, the internet has given rise to a network society of grievers who need only log-on to receive support. For many the cyber world is a viable path for healing.
The first time I posted on a bereavement message board, I had to wait 48 hours for my message to be reviewed and posted, and the reply came at least a day or two later. I felt like I was waiting for a letter to arrive in the mailbox. I simply asked if anyone was dreaming about their child. The first responses were assuring yet heartbreaking. Within a month’s time, the message threads grew long and detailed resembling a journal entry with stories from parents yearning to talk to someone “like them”. Despite the long intervals, it felt more intimate, people seemed more respectful and considerate in their replies.
In retrospect, it was the end of the era of “letter writing” when long-term correspondence was thoughtful, informative and descriptive between senders. Receiving a letter in the mailbox was an honor because it meant someone remembered me. They were thinking about me and my well-being long before I read their words. Even a vacation post-card (perhaps the equivalent of an instant message now) conveyed as much with a scribbled, “Wish you were here!”
As a young girl, I learned the art of proper letter writing from my mother, the 1SG of Communication in our Army family. Mom was a stickler about crossed out words, incomplete sentences and messy handwriting but her diligence sharpened my writing and self-editing skills. I proofread everything to be sure I’d written what I really meant before sealing the envelope.
Growing up in a military family, we had more address changes than I want to remember. Now, I have two email addresses attached to umpteen log-ins for a gazillion personal accounts. Back in the day, overseas “Air Mail” delivery took two weeks and with the turnaround time it would be four to six weeks before we received a reply. Compare that with a two-second email or instant message and you can see why I was easily enticed by the allure of electronic mail.
Instant messaging delivers a thought or a rant in less time than it takes to type it and sender’s remorse sets in…or not. My mother would be horrified by the ease in which people communicate today posting memes and status updates containing vulgar language and explosive sermons to voice their “truth”. I am as well, and I’m often dismayed as I become ambivalent about the value of the tool to communicate effectively. It seems we take for granted the click of a like button (and more recent additions of the sad, angry or wow emoticon) not so mindful of its full meaning but assuring ourselves that we’ve “connected”. Lightning speed brings instant contact but is it a real connection?
While I’m fortunate to have Facebook friends who are respectful and thoughtful in their postings on my page, others are not so fortunate. I cringe when I read inflammatory or judgmental comments and opinions from friends. Especially on pages designed for bereavement support. It doesn’t feel supportive, helpful or loving. There are no boundaries anymore. Seriously, some thoughts are better left on the keyboard.
Why aren’t we editing ourselves? Why aren’t we thinking twice about what we post and how the recipient might perceive it? Are we posting with integrity to inform and influence or posting a provocative meme to shame, demean or feel superior? Have we substituted emoticons, memes and gifs for meaningful interaction because we’re too busy or detached to be present to our own imagery and metaphors of loss and grief… joy and peace?
I don’t have the answer but writing about it gives me some perspective and keeps me from going down the rabbit hole. Perhaps, because I delve so deeply in my inner world of symbols and imagery, the digital world appears too superficial. So, I’m a middle-aged baby-boomer and I’ve adapted to using social media in the present bereavement landscape to stay connected using this digital blog. I use it for marketing my dream work business, presenting workshops and correspondence with clients. There’s no getting around it. One has to remain current if I want to reach you and make a difference.
Forgive me if I’m whining, I really do appreciate technology. However, I’d rather be face to face with you listening intently with an open heart or engaged in a healthy, passionate discussion. Emoticons, caps, exclamations and hashtags can never replace a tender look, a warm touch or sitting in silence and being present to a moment of grace. Those are the connections I yearn for these days. To paraphrase one of my favorite artists, Joe Walsh…I’m just an analog girl living in a digital world.
Copyright 2016 Carla F. Blowey/Dreaming Kevin